AT News Report
KABUL: Soon after reports surfaced that US President Donald Trump was set to meet with his national security team Friday afternoon to discuss a pending peace agreement with the Taliban, US Senator Lindsey Graham, a vocal opposition to Trump, warned him against withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban.
As a peace deal with the Taliban seems just around the corner, the possibility of a US troop pullout has raised deep concerns within the US military and among some lawmakers that the situation in Afghanistan could quickly deteriorate and plunge the country into a new civil war, helping to turn it into a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda and other extremists.
Graham in this regard said that any final deal should allow the US to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan to pursue resurgent terror groups.
“Any peace agreement which denies the U.S. a robust counterterrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal. Instead, it is paving the way for another attack on the American homeland and attacks against American interests around the world.”
He said that President Trump should learn from President Obama’s mistakes. “Be smart, take your time, and listen to your national security team,” he added while addressing Trump.
“To trust the Taliban to control al-Qaeda, ISIS-K, and other radical Islamist groups present in Afghanistan – as a replacement for a US counter-terrorism force – would be a bigger mistake than Obama’s Iranian nuclear deal,” he maintained.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, has been negotiating with the Taliban for months on a deal to end America’s war in Afghanistan that would see a withdrawal of troops in exchange for assurances from the group that it would not let the country become a base for terrorist organizations to launch attacks against the US.
Khalilzad said the last round of talks earlier this month was “productive,” though a deal’s finalization has been hindered by the Taliban’s refusal to enter intra-Afghan talks.
The Pentagon has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of both training, advising and assisting local forces in the fight against the Taliban and running counterterrorism operations against groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.
This comes as there has been no letup in violence in the war even as talks continue.